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The Globalization of Pentecostalism: A Review Article, by Paul Elbert

[24] George G. Findlay, Fellowship in the Life Eternal: An Exposition of the Epistles of St. John (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1909), observes that “The mind that is not surprised and sometimes staggered by the claims of Christ and the doctrines of Christianity, that has not felt the shock they give to our ordinary experience and native convictions, has not awakened to their real import… If the life manifested in the Lord Jesus Christ was eternal, then it is living and real to-day,” pp. 87, 90.

[25] The dispensational mind-set, which has Pauline spiritual gifts ceasing outright (much less the Lukan prophetic conception) when the ink dried on the last apostolic scroll or codex, as claimed by E. Schuyler English et al, The New Scofield Reference Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 1245, understandably had honest difficulty in providing assistance to those whose interpretation collided with that mind-set.  Talbot Theological Seminary, for example, at one time advised prospective students from the Pentecostal tradition not to apply for matriculation.  Without adequate ministerial training and an influential educational system not lodged in place until the mid-century, a few unrepresentative extremes occurred which victimized the faithful, cf. Thomas Smail, Andrew Walker and Nigel Wright, “‘Revelation Knowledge’ and Knowledge of Revelation: The Faith Movement and the Question of Heresy,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 5 (1994), pp. 57-77.   As to the hostile print materials directed against the developing movement, they ranged from the extreme implication and accusation that Pentecostals were of the Devil to the insulting mischaracterization that they were a Tongues Movement.  Pentecostals faced a struggle with vigorous protection of established positions together with (in the Reformed traditions) the ingrained suspicion of the non-rational, a prominent characteristic of Western anti-supernatural bias.

[26] As to the Pentecostals’ pastoral application of Lukan examples coupled to Pauline discursive description, cf. Clark H. Pinnock, “Divine Relationality: A Pentecostal Contribution to the Doctrine of God,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 16 (2000), pp. 3-26 (25), who urges Pentecostals today to “Resist the pressure from the paleo-Calvinist segment of Evangelicalism and persist in their witness to the relational dynamism of God.”  Pinnock is to be commended for exhorting contemporary Great Commission Christians to do what Luke himself does via his own employment of vivid, persuasive, and plausible examples and precedents, providing authentic motivation for prayerful and obedient imitation in the expected style of Graeco-Roman narrative-rhetorical tradition.

[27] Not only did Pentecostals midway through this century face (and continue to face) outright cessationist claims, they faced (and continue to face) claims not based on detailed research, but advanced as responsible scholarship, so as to ostensibly vacate what NT writers actually appear to say, such as one prominent NT scholar’s claim that “the perfect” (1Cor 13:10) is an intermediate temporal period following the death of the apostles, and another very prominent grammarian’s claim that the reflexive middle voice (1 Cor 13:8) indicates that glossolalia will cease of themelves (along with NT prophecy and interior revelatory word-gifts).  One world class scholar said that he would like to remove Acts 19:1-6 from the NT if it was possible to do so on textual grounds. NT writers were dubbed as confronting the interpreter “with weighty problems” and with “extraordinary incident(s)” when conflicts arose with established positions. Highly touted claims were made as to the great difficulty that must be involved in understanding such texts. These quick and dogmatic “solutions” are unlikely to be persuasive. Perhaps to the contrary, however, Luke, given his high marks for skillful Greek and remarkable attention to detail, writing in his literary setting in the narrative-rhetorical tradition linked to the Roman educational system, would have designed his narrative to communicate clearly enough for readers to follow sequential events, identify relationships and make expected narrative connections; but a quarter century ago Evangelical scholars could not even begin to detect these connections which seemed clear to the emerging movement.  An example of this point is Gordon Fee, “The Genre of New Testament Literature and Biblical Hermeneutics,” in Samuel J. Schultz and Morris A. Inch (eds.), Interpreting the Word of God: Festschrift in Honor of Steven Barabas (Chicago: Moody Press, 1976), pp.105-27 (119), who declared that “Glossolalia three times accompanies the gift of the Spirit in Acts (2:4, 10:44-46, 19:6; perhaps 8:17 as well), where the text says that someone received the Spirit (9:17-18 is the lone exception).  However, one is hard-pressed to see in these passages a baptism in the Spirit as a second work of the Spirit.”  Fee and other Evangelical scholars were adamant a quarter century ago, before their interpretative methods and distinctive bias against narrative theology were adequately appraised and better understood (cf. Menzies and Menzies, Call), that there is no experience of the heavenly Jesus pouring out a gift of the Holy Spirit upon believer-disciples praying in obedience to the teaching of the earthly Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, no Lukan filling with the Holy Spirit, no baptism in the Holy Spirit as part of prophetic fulfillment, no expectations of any such Christocentric experience based upon examples and precedents provided by Luke, beyond a salvation experience.  It may fairly be observed that Moody Press, to this day, continues to republish material by Merrill Unger, which is identical to that of Fee (cited above), making this very same claim.  Moody Press, although not a denominational publishing house, continues to make no information to the contrary available to their clientele.  These two observations do not imply that Moody Press is required to do anything else but what they are doing.  From a temporal perspective, perhaps Moody Press may be genuinely commended for its commitment to the position re Luke adopted by Fee and Unger, if space be made for dialogue and discussion.  The minimalist and restrictive position of Fee and Unger toward Luke’s double work is quite unlike that taken by Moody Press’ figurehead a half century before Fee and Unger wrote, cf. Richard K. Curtis, They Called Him Mister Moody (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1962), pp. 149-50. In astronomy, as in theology, geocentricity was eventually replaced by heliocentricity, although several centuries, not just one, were required to complete the modification of openness to new possibilities.  Interaction with such long-standing theological backgrounds may be found in Paul Elbert, “Spirit, Scripture and Theology through a Lukan Lens,” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 13 (1998), pp. 55-75.

[28] The established position of Lukan cessationism is capably illustrated by Richard B. Gaffin, “A Cessationist View,” in Wayne A. Grudem (ed.), Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), pp. 25-64 (38), in that “The history that interests Luke is finished” (emphasis his). Gaffins treatment of the Lukan gift of the Holy Spirit is essentially equivalent to Calvin’s, with the difference being that Calvin wisely did not attempt to base his arbitrary confinement of the gift to Lukan characters upon exegesis, cf. my “Calvin and the Spiritual Gifts,” in Richard C. Gamble (ed.), Articles on Calvin and Calvinism, VIII: An Elaboration of the Theology of Calvin (New York/London: Garland, 1992), pp. 303-31, taken from Elbert (ed.), Essays on Apostolic Themes, pp. 115-43.

[29] John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (3rd ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), pp. 152, 153, wherein Lk 11:13 is dismissed as a “problem passage” and we find the astonishing claim that Acts 1:14; 4:24; 8:15 do not indicate believers praying for the gift of the Holy Spirit (although Luke plainly indicates otherwise), so that at Acts 2:4; 4:31; 8:18 no Lukan character is portrayed in obedient connection with the earthly Jesus’ earlier teaching on prayer.  This claim prevents the experience of Lukan characters from escaping the confines of the text, although no evidence is adduced as to the nature of Luke’s literary minded readers’ cessationistic antennae so as to detect what is plainly contrary to what Luke actually writes.   Without considerable assistance from a truncational impulse, it is difficult to believe that such antennae would be very perceptive.  This same tact has been recently adopted by Max Turner, Power from on High: The Spirit in Israel’s Restoration and Witness in Luke-Acts (JPTSup 9; Sheffield; Sheffield Academic Press, 1996) with the bombastic claim that “No one prayed in accord with Lk 11:13b” (p. 340).  Further, Luke believes that his readers would make a “mistake” to apply Acts 1:8 to themselves (p. 399), because Luke does not want to portray the whole church as involved in witness (p. 432).   One has to wonder what Walvrood and Turner think Luke understood his characters at Acts 1:14 (following Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5, 8); 4:24; and 8:15 to be praying about in their narrative contexts Luke has so carefully and clearly laid out.  Perhaps they were praying about something of which Luke was unaware, something contrary to his own portrayal of these character’s lives and different from their express actions, as well as something contrary to the narrative connectivity Luke provides.  The ploy of claiming that scholarly readers know more than the narrator, while hiding the implication that the narrator then appears a dissembler or a dunderhead or a politically motivated misleader, is well worn in the analysis of ancient texts, but it is not convincing here.  In this case the various connective contexts, together with vivid narrative examples, all connected to the narrative zenith of the earthly Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Lk 11:13, make Walvrood’s and Turner’s cessationistic and willful claims of narrative extraction and reinterpretation seem very non-Lukan, although they seem highly resonant with position protection and ecclesiastical harmonization.  It seems obvious that Walvrood and Turner do not want their readers praying in concert with, or in imitation of, Lukan characters who pray for something that Walvrood and Turner do not want prayed for, something Walvrood and Turner desire to be confined to Lukan character’s lives.  Wouldn’t it be better just to say that outright, to clearly declare the venerated presupposition that believer-disciples should not pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit, instead of attempting to make such a desire appear dependent on interpretation?  With regard to ecclesiastical harmonization, Walvrood and Turner appear to follow in the train of the dispensational claim that the first Jerusalem Pentecost, while securely encapsulated in a supposed apostolic age, yet somehow applies itself osmotically to all future believers who, nevertheless, cannot receive “an individual” or “new” baptism in the Holy Spirit (so W. J. Erdman, “The Holy Spirit and the Sons of God,” in The Fundamentals (4 vols.; Los Angeles: Bible Institute of Los Angeles, 1917), II, pp. 338-52 (344).  This dispensational claim is the result of unexamined and uncritical views pertaining to Lukan cessationism in Reformed/Evangelical tradition, but has little analytical relation to contemporary biblical scholarship.

[30] Here, the “Charismatic Themes in Luke-Acts” Study Group of the Evangelical Theological Society, which has met for the past three years (1998-2000) at consecutive national meetings, may have played some small constructive role.

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About the Author: Paul Elbert, physicist-theologian and New Testament scholar, teaches theology and science at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary. He is co-chair of the Formation of Luke-Acts section in the Society of Biblical Literature and is a research advisor to the Dominican Biblical Institute, Limerick, Ireland. His writings have appeared, for example, in Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft and in Catholic Biblical Quarterly. He served as editor of two anniversary volumes for Old Testament scholars, Essays on Apostolic Themes (1985) and Faces of Renewal (1988).

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